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Hefty price tag for Justice Court as renovations said to cost at least $5.7M

A preliminary look into three options for the future of Southold Town Hall and Justice Court facility recently completed by the town engineer revealed one common thread: all will come with a hefty price tag.

The first proposal presented by town engineer Michael Collins at a work session Tuesday explored modifying a portion of the annex building to serve as a court complex, as originally intended, would cost approximately $5.7 million.

Consolidating town hall operations and moving them to the annex building would involve a complete overhaul and cost approximately $8 million, while constructing a new building behind the existing town hall could total $9.5 million.

He was directed to begin exploring costs associated with moving town operations to the annex building at the corner of Main Road and Youngs Avenue, after Supervisor Scott Russell said converting the former bank building into a Justice Court may be impractical. 

The building is currently used to house the town’s planning, building, accounting and personnel departments.

Mr. Collins said constructing a new Town Hall building has several benefits. 

“In a new building, we can lay out all of the offices in an optimal way according to what we want,” he said, as opposed to trying to fit them into existing footprints.

Other advantages include a minimal disruption to town offices, which could continue to operate while the new building was constructed. The Justice Court could also operate in its current state while renovations to the annex were being done.

In that scenario, Town Hall would later be demolished to make way for green space downtown.

Down the road, Mr. Collins said a centralized Justice Court could also theoretically provide some space for the town’s police department to operate from, since officials have also said renovations to the current police department headquarters building will need to be addressed. “It’s a concept at this point,” Mr. Collins said.

The annex building was purchased by the town for $3.1 million in 2018 with the intent of converting it into a new Justice Court, whose offices are currently located in a trailer attached to Town Hall, where the main public meeting room doubles as a courtroom.

Town Board members are seeking more information, including estimates from the town’s comptroller, on how the project could impact the town’s finances.

“I think this is a [little] bit more than we had originally intended when we first conceived the idea,” Councilman Bob Ghosio said.

Due to historically low interest rates, Mr. Russell said it’s an ideal time to borrow money, but said the debt associated with the proposals is substantial.

Town officials are expected to work with the comptroller and also discuss the scenario with court and police officials before reaching a decision.